from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 12
February 2, 2004


Congress "implored" President Bush in 2002 to take steps to reform U.S. intelligence, but those steps were never taken.

Various intelligence reforms were proposed early on in the Bush Administration, according to press reports and government documents, but they were not implemented.

"President Bush has ordered a comprehensive review of the nation's intelligence capabilities, asking Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet to determine how the CIA and a dozen sister agencies are coping with rapid technological change and difficult new targets," the Washington Post reported nearly three years ago.

See "U.S. Intelligence Efforts to Get Major Review" by Vernon Loeb, May 12, 2001:

The reference of course was not to the new intelligence review that will be announced this week but to an earlier study that was initiated by President Bush when he issued National Security Presidential Directive 5, dated May 9, 2001.

NSPD-5, the text of which has never been disclosed, is cursorily summarized here:

Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who helped lead the NSPD-5 review, told Congress in 2001 that a report on the review was submitted to the White House, though it has remained classified.

When President Bush took no action on the NSPD-5 review, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence begged him to finally give due attention to it. Thus, the Committee stated in its July 2002 report on the FY 2003 intelligence authorization act:

"The Committee implores the President, in particular, to receive the findings from the NSPD-5 review and act upon them with expediency."

"The President's own review resulting from NSPD-5 will ... aid in assessing the nation's intelligence effectiveness and what barriers impinge on that effectiveness."


But there are no indications that President Bush ever acted upon the NSPD-5 findings.


In a small but telling sign of mounting public dissatisfaction with U.S. intelligence, even the DCI's National Intelligence Council (NIC), a sort of intelligence community think tank, is coming under fire for its perceived inadequacies.

"The NIC is precisely the place where ... comprehensive, forward-looking thinking is supposed to happen," writes one anonymous poster on a web-based bulletin board. "Instead, it's where sharply argued views go to die."

"The Middle East to 2020," which is a recent NIC publication, "turns out to be mainly an assortment of pabulum and truisms, leavened with occasional bits of pseudo-profound gibberish." See:


The JASON defense advisory group produced a detailed survey of nuclear arms control verification technologies in a 1990 report that may still be of interest to specialists in the field.

"This study analyzes several of the principal new challenges to effective verification of compliance to agreed limits to weapons now under discussion at the START negotiations. The new requirements are analyzed, new technologies are described, and specific proposals are presented for enhancing our capabilities to verify treaty compliance."

See "Verification Technology: Unclassified Version" (139 pp, in a very large 5.8 MB PDF file) here:


The effectiveness of the national security classification system in protecting classified information depends on a robust declassification process, said William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in a speech to the American Historical Association last month.

"We cannot depend upon [the classification] system to protect today's sensitive secrets unless we regularly purge it of yesterday's secrets that no longer require protection in the interest of national security. Allowing such material to remain classified, in addition to contributing to an incomplete or distorted view of our history, also can have a corrosive effect on the efficacy of the classification system in general."

"To allow information that can no longer cause damage to national security to remain in the classification system places all classified information at needless increased risk," Mr. Leonard said.

Mr. Leonard's ISOO is the federal agency responsible for overseeing classification and declassification activity throughout the executive branch.

See his January 9 presentation on "Security Classification in a Post 9/11 Environment" here:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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